10. Chapter 10
The bath was lovely and hot. It eased her aching muscles. She knew she had done a little bit too much but riding Jewel was so exhilarating, she could not help it. Perhaps she should not have gone out today as well, but the weather was perfect and a picnic had seemed a marvellous idea. It kept them all out of Fréowyn's way. She needed the space to prepare for the feast tonight. Yes, she was aching a bit. But the journey to meet Éowyn, Faramir and the rest of the party from Minas Tirith the day before had been tiring, but worth it.
The look on her fathers and brothers faces when she had insisted on going into the stable to fetch her own horse from Díor, was good enough, but their disbelief when she had led out Jewel, taken her to the mounting block and swung herself competently onto her back had been a pleasure to behold. In truth, she had surprised herself, but knew that, however determined she had been not to look a fool in Rohan; it would not have been possible without the wonderful training that Rohirric horses received and the extra attention Éomer had given the mare. Éomer must have spent considerable time with Jewel over the summer, and she was both pleased and grateful for his concern for her feelings. He had laughed, and said that it was just the excuse he needed to get away from his study and spend more time around the stables. He made light of it, but she knew he had put himself to considerable effort.
The ride out towards Aldburg had been magical for her. They had left after breakfast. Éomer and his guard, her three brothers and her father with half a dozen Swan Knights. The plan was to meet Aragorn's party for lunch; a couple of hours ride away, and then escort them to Edoras. When she had arrived in Edoras she had been excited, if scared, to come along the mountain track from Erech, the one Aragorn had taken with Legolas and Gimli. But she was even more thrilled to be travelling on horseback along the Great West Road, the way Théoden, Éomer and the Rohirrim had ridden to the aid of the White City.
It had been a beautiful day with the sun glinting on the high peaks of the White Mountains, picking out bright white permanent pockets of snow. She wondered if anyone ever walked there, if footsteps intruded on what looked liked, from where she was riding, pristine ground. She was just musing on these poetic thoughts when Amroth pushed his way up to ride beside her.
"I have been watching you, Lorí, and I have to admit that you are doing really well."
She was pleased, as Amroth was an excellent horseman, the best of her brothers. "You should not be surprised, Amroth. You used to shout at me enough when we were children."
"Yes, I did," he grinned, "and I suppose you never forget it." He looked thoughtful for a moment and then said rather seriously. "Lorí, we should have stood up for you. Against the dragon aunts, I mean."
"Yes, you should have." She sighed audibly, "But you were full of your own affairs and father was full of grief. It was just easier to let them have their way. Anyway," she smiled wickedly, "I shall make up for it now. Ride, and wear what I like. I might even swim naked in the rivers," she added mischievously.
Amroth looked aghast, he was not sure if she was joking or not. "You have changed, Lorí. I am sure it started when you met Éomer. That lion business surprised me. I thought it was a fluke, but it was not."
"How have I changed?" she asked with interest.
Amroth considered for a moment. "You stood up for yourself over the summer and became much more outspoken. Even without the wine," he grinned. "I have noticed even more since we left Dol Amroth behind. And you look different," he added.
"The hair you mean?"
"No, not entirely," he smiled, "although it does suit you like that. It's some sort of confidence thing. I think you have grown up."
"I remember telling you the same, on the beach that night, when you were trying to persuade me it was a good idea to marry Éomer."
"Hmm… I remember. You were so angry." He lifted one eyebrow quizzically, "You are not angry now?"
"I am sure it is obvious that I am not."
"You have feelings for him?" he asked pointedly.
Lothíriel hesitated; she did not want to go there. Not for herself or for her brother. She did not wish to go there unless those feelings were returned. She was absolutely sure they were not. He was kind and considerate to her, had made it plain the he was pleased with the match and found her attractive Desirable even. But that was all. Deep down she knew it. "We made a bargain, Amroth. Éomer and I made a bargain. To both do our best to make our marriage work and each other happy."
He looked at her shrewdly, "There are worse ways to start a marriage. But I rather thought you felt more than that."
"Amroth, he is a very attractive man. I am not immune to that," she said more sharply than she intended.
She thought that would shut him up but a grin broke over his face. "My, my… you have grown up, little sister.
She had to change the subject. "Never mind about my marriage, Amroth. What about yours?"
She could hardly restrain her laughter at his expression.
"Yes, yours. You cannot swan around forever. You have to settle down sometime."
"I do not see why," he said forcibly. "Luckily for Erchi and me, Elphir has done his duty admirably: producing two sons."
"Well, if not you, Erchi certainly ought to consider it," she looked around but none were in earshot, "I thought he might have spoken to father by now."
"I do not know what you are talking about," Amroth said loyally.
"Don't take me for a fool, Amroth. He has looked at no other since he and Anis …" she waved her hand to indicate what she meant.
Amroth sighed, realising it was useless to deny his brother's liaison. "Anis has a small child."
"She will have another is they are not careful," she muttered.
"Lothiriel!" Amroth was looking shocked.
"Oh, for Valar's sake," she sighed, totally exasperated. "As you said, Amroth: I have grown up. Anyway," she carried on, "I do not see it matters. She is a widow of good family. Surely father would not object?"
"No, I don't suppose he would," he agreed. "I think Erchi is just scared to take the plunge."
She grinned and made to lighten the mood. "Out of the four of us, he was the one who always made a fuss about jumping in."
The conversation ended abruptly as a scout returned to report that King Elessar's entourage would soon be within sight.
The party from Gondor had stopped on the edge of a small stream by the time they reached them. It was a good place to water themselves and the horses, and a fire had already been lit. Throwing a greeting at Aragorn, Éomer jumped down from Firefoot and swept Éowyn off her feet in an exuberant bear hug.
"Careful, you big lug," she laughed, "I am in a delicate condition."
Éomer stared at her and then at Faramir as though he could not quite believe it. His expression of bewilderment started Éowyn giggling. "Honestly, brother, it does happen you know, as I am sure you will find out."
Éomer laughed, and recovered his manners sufficiently to greet Aragorn and Arwen and properly congratulate Faramir.
Lothiriel was pleased to see Éowyn again. She was also very pleased to have her instincts confirmed – there was not a lace cap in sight, and what's more – neither woman had their hair braided. Éowyn did have a plait for ease of travelling, but it started below the nape of her neck and reached her waist. The Queen was wearing her long dark hair much like Lothíriel's own: tied loosely back from her face with a coloured ribbon. Just as she thought!
It was a good chance for the princess to catch up on the news from the City so Lothíriel sat with them both to talk and eat their midday meal. The Queen was going to pass young Eldarion over to a maid to enjoy her food in peace but Lothíriel was keen to nurse the baby. Evidently he had travelled brilliantly, causing no problems at all. Lothiriel was not surprised, as every time she had met Arwen she had appeared totally tranquil and serene. It was bound to rub off, she reflected.
"You must be experienced with babies," Arwen remarked, watching her rocking him gently.
"Yes," she answered, "I will miss my little nephews a lot."
Arwen smiled, "I imagine it will not be long before you are nursing one of your own."
Lothiriel did not know what to say. She had no idea if the Queen was just making polite conversation or if, being an Elf, she had some kind of foresight.
Éowyn laughed, and she got up to fetch some more tea, "As I said to my brother, Lorí: it does tend to happen."
Lothiriel still said nothing, realising suddenly that when she had arrived in Rohan she had been more excited than nervous, but as the wedding was getting closer, all this talk of babies was making her anxious.
"Lothiriel," Arwen said quietly, "I did not mean to upset you. When you rode up on that lovely horse you looked so different from the previous times I have met you. So much more alive and confident that I felt you were totally happy with the prospect of your new role."
"I am happy," she admitted, smiling to reassure the other woman. "Just a little nervous, perhaps."
"Good," the Queen grinned. "Nerves are acceptable. Unhappiness is not."
Lothíriel bit her lip and reached for the jug of hot water to top up the bath. Yes, she was happy but her wedding day was drawing ever closer. She sighed, she ought to get out and start dressing for the feast tonight. Last night, after all the travelling, everyone had just wanted to sit around quietly and talk, but tonight Meduseld would come alive to welcome Gondor's King and Rohan's White Lady, even if she was now Princess of Ithilien.
She was just about to get out of the bath when Frecca bustled in, her arms full of clothes.
"Are you alright, my Lady? Do you want some of that salve?" she asked glancing at the red marks evident beneath the water."
"Not until I go to bed," the Princess laughed, "it smells awful."
"Well," Frecca remarked with her usual frankness, "you had better get rid of those marks before your wedding night."
"Oh," Lothíriel looked down at herself slightly embarrassed by the reference, "it's not that bad really. The hot water makes it look worse. I'll smear the stuff all over me tonight and tomorrow. I am sure they will have disappeared in time."
"You had better go easy on the riding then, Princess."
Lothíriel thought for a moment and decided Frecca was right, although she was not sure what she would tell Éomer. "I have to just go out for a short while for the next two days. I will think of an excuse."
"You probably won't have to; the men are saying it is going to rain. Now, Princess, what are you going to wear tonight?" she carried on.
The rest of her belongings had arrived, having been sent weeks earlier by ship and wagon. Lothíriel reached for a cloth and stood up in the bath to dry herself. Wrapping herself in a robe she searched through the dresses. "This blue one will be fine; it has a matching shawl which I can take off. It will probably get hot tonight."
"What are you going to wear for the crowning ceremony?" Frecca asked.
Lothíriel swallowed, she had been trying not to think about that. Adhere to Rohirric customs she had told her father. She could do with missing this coming one out. She wondered if Frecca would mention anything: it seemed just the sort of thing she would remark on, but nothing was forthcoming. "There is a deep red one with gold embroidery; I thought that would be suitable." Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea after all, she thought. It might well match her face.
"Oh yes, it is lovely. It's very suitable. I will make sure all the creases are out."
The bath and the healing oils had eased her sore muscles somewhat and by the time Éomer arrived to escort her to dinner, the red marks on her legs were much fainter. She had better not risk inflaming them though and, unusually, hoped for rain.
The hall was crowded, giving her some idea what it would be like for the wedding. Everyone was dressed up a little more than they had been and the presence of King Elessar and Queen Arwen naturally made things a little more formal.
Lothíriel ended up between Éomer and Faramir, which pleased her. Her father would not be watching every move. Although, Fastred, the server who normally attended Éomer and his immediate guests, had already got into the habit of slipping her an extra measure when the Lord of Dol Amroth was not looking. Lothíriel thought that probably, like her, he did not see why she should be restricted to two cups of wine when everyone else drank four or five or more. Not that she wanted to drink that much wine really, but it was not the point – if she was allowed three or four, then she would soon get used to the effect, she was sure.
The meal was coming to a close when the conversation turned to the wedding day celebrations. Arwen, who had been married and received her crown in one ceremony looked up and asked, "Why are there two ceremonies in Rohan? The wedding one day and the crowning the day after?"
Lothíriel suddenly felt cold and reached for her goblet. She knew the answer perfectly well after reading all about Rohirric customs. It had been haunting her ever since. She wondered if Éomer would reply but Éowyn stepped in with the typical bluntness she was learning to expect from the women of the Mark.
"The crowning cannot take place until the marriage has been consummated," she explained with no embarrassment at all. "The King has to confirm this as part of the ceremony."
Lothíriel looked around at her father. His eyes were wide.
Éowyn's next words caused a flood of relief to wash over the princess. "At one time the bed sheet had to be produced as evidence, but that died out some time ago. Morwen of Lossarnach already had children by the time she was crowned so it seemed a pointless tradition."
Lothíriel took another gulp of wine; the relief was making her light-headed. The words would be in Rohirric anyway. No one spoke for a moment but, right on cue, Erchi started chuckling.
"There you are, Lorí. It's no good pretending you are asleep or you will not get the crown."
There were some strangulated noises around as those in the vicinity tried to stifle their laughter but Lothíriel was aware of Éomer tensing beside her and he went to stand. She knew he and Erchi were friends but her brother had behaved quite abominably as he often did when he had had a bit to much to drink. She didn't see why he should get away with it when she could not. She put her hand on Éomer's arm and looked across to her brother. Both Amroth and her father immediately noticed the red spots on her cheeks, but as Imrahil opened his mouth to stop her, she smiled sweetly at Erchirion.
"Let me assure you, Erchi, that I have no intention of being asleep on my wedding night. Not when, as I understand it, there is so much pleasure to be had. I am absolutely sure there must be," she carried on, "otherwise there would not be so much activity between you and a certain lady."
Her father did not know whether to remonstrate with her, or with his second son who had caused this unladylike utterance but, fortunately for Lothíriel, Éowyn and Arwen burst out laughing and so did Éomer.
It was quite late when the tables were cleared away for some very lively Rohirric dancing. Lothíriel danced for a while but she was very hot and really wanted to go outside. She had just found her shawl when Éomer appeared beside her. "Would you like to come for a walk?" he asked. "It's so hot in here. I think there will be a thunderstorm later," he added glancing towards the open door.
She smiled gratefully, "I would love to.
"Just a moment then," he said with one of his mischievous looks, "wait here".
She watched, intrigued, as he threaded his way through the crowd to have a word with Éothain. She saw his friend grin, pick up a jug of ale and walk over to a table where other members of Éomer's guard were sitting. There was a moment's conversation, some more grins and then Éothain casually wandered towards Amroth and Erchi. The other men he had been talking to, picked up their tankards, and nonchalantly followed their captain.
Éomer headed back in her direction with a satisfied smile on his face.
"What are you up to?" she asked amused. Although it was obvious really as the group of men had surrounded her brothers and were already calling for more ale.
He grinned, "Éothain will take care of Amroth and Erchi, Elphir is in deep discussion with Faramir and your father with Aragorn and Arwen. It's a good chance to spend some time on our own."
Lothíriel swallowed. She was not really nervous.
"We are getting married in three days time, Lorí; I think that it's about time we made some preparation for our wedding night."
What! He could not think that, after what she had said, she meant….
Her face must have reflected her thoughts because he chuckled softly. "Lorí, I just want to kiss you and talk."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.